From The Archive: Capped

Hampshire Cricket's historian Dave Allen looks at the history of Hampshire's County Cap

It is not so long ago that for a professional cricketer, being awarded a county cap was an essential achievement in building a full career. It meant an improved and probably longer contract with the prospect of a tax-free benefit later in their career – although the ‘convention’ of waiting ten years was not always applied.

Among the beneficiaries post-war were Vic Cannings (cap 1950, benefit 1959), Jimmy Gray (cap 1951, benefit 1960), Roy Marshall (cap 1955, benefit 1961), Trevor Jesty (cap 1971, benefit 1982), and Malcolm Marshall (cap 1981, benefit 1987).

In the days of Northlands Road, it also meant receiving a capped-players tie, and using the top players dressing room, to which young uncapped players had access only if they were playing in a first team match.

Beyond those details of course, the main point of the cap was a signal to the player and the cricketing world that this professional had reached a certain and probably consistent level of performance; capped professionals might hope and expect to secure and hold a place in the first team.

The county cap was a rather different matter before 1940 because Hampshire often selected a mix of amateur and professional players and amateurs would be ‘capped’ as a mark of respect for achievements – a nice gesture of no particular consequence longer term. Indeed, in a few cases it seems that the cap was presented as a gesture of friendship from the captain or committee to players whose achievements were substantially less than those of uncapped professionals.

In the modern game of 12-month contracts and opportunities to earn money in various limited-overs competitions around the world, benefits have become far less significant and the cap is now a recognition for good performances, usually presented on the field and awarded recently to bowlers Chris Wood, and Fidel Edwards - all our capped players can be identified by a small blue dot alongside their names on the Players’ Board on the Atrium walkway.

When drawing up the full list, identifying our capped players was straightforward for post-war players for whom we have a clear record in various annual publications, but shortly after our move to the new ground I was a member of a Committee that discussed and defined the list of all Hampshire cricketers who we believe were capped before 1940.

The committee consisted of three former players, Mike Barnard, Tim Tremlett & Will Kendall, plus scorer & statistician Vic Isaacs, plus Neil Jenkinson my predecessor and fine Hampshire historian, and me. Having compiled an initial pre-war list, we would often discover a photograph or other evidence showing another recipient but it’s likely that we now have a definitive list that is as accurate as possible

We have a collection of Hampshire caps in the Archive going back more than 100 years and four of them are in the preview image of this piece. Back left is a special ‘non-playing’ cap with the inscription BAR 1973-2013; it is one of 13 awarded to the players who won Hampshire’s last Championship, to mark the 50th anniversary and after the lunch, Barry Richards presented his to our Archive.

Far right is the numbered cap (507) which was used by Australian Philip Hughes who played briefly for the county. Front left is another poignant cap, the small-peaked variety favoured briefly in the Edwardian era and presented to the Southampton amateur Robert Jesson who died in action in the First World War. Front right is a cap from the 1950s, worn by our great bowler, Derek Shackleton. 

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